Power line proposals unveiled for southern Alberta

STIRLING, Alta. — Another portion of the Southern Alberta Transmission Reinforcement plan is on the order paper and residents near Hill Spring, Magrath, Stirling, Cardston and Pincher Creek are being asked for input.

AltaLink has mapped out a series of potential routes for a line from a substation near Pincher Creek to another near Stirling.

This particular section of what AltaLink calls the Goose Lake to Etzikom Coulee project may run near Waterton Lakes National Park and also skirt several environmentally sensitive native grasslands.

The route is also likely to affect numerous irrigation farmers and may go through the Blood Indian reserve.

“We’re getting a lot of negative feedback, and there’s no doubt about that. We always knew it. We’re in close proximity to Waterton Park. These are very scenic areas,” AltaLink right-of-way planner Conrad Journault said at a June 13 open house in Stirling.

“We get negative sentiment wherever we go. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but I’ve never built a project where there hasn’t been somebody opposed to it.”

Decisions on the need for transmission lines are made by the Alberta Electric Systems Operator.

In the case of SATR, additional lines are needed to connect new and proposed wind farm operations to the electrical grid.

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Landowners affected by this section of line have received notice about the various routes AltaLink is considering.

New to the recent series of open houses is information on a possible route through the Blood reserve, which is federal land and thus adds an additional level of complexity to planning.

“This is the route that they (Blood Indians) said would be acceptable to them,” said Journault.

“In the case of federal lands, we don’t have a whole lot of choice of going back and saying, ‘that doesn’t work for us, we want something else.’”

The line will have to go around the reserve if no routing arrangement is reached, which would add an additional 30 kilometres to the route.

Journault said AltaLink’s goal is to strike a balance between the effects a 240 kilovolt power line, built on steel lattice, will have on farmland, native grassland and residences.

He said it would be impossible to avoid effects on irrigation farming. Priority is given to building along quarter lines, but that can still affect pivots.

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As well, AltaLink considers building its lines parallel to existing ones, but that also has limitations, Journault said.

“You can move to try to parallel existing power lines, but you can’t tuck it right up against them. You have to meet county road setbacks, which still puts you 120 to 140 feet into the field.”

Effects on irrigation were a concern for farmer Gerrad Wauters, who attended the open house. He’s concerned that one of the proposed routes would force him to alter his end gun pivot, resulting in loss of irrigated acreage.

AltaLink has a system for landowner compensation in such cases. There are also early access, general disturbance and land damage payments. Annual fees are paid for lattice structures on private property.

After public consultation, AltaLink will select a preferred and alternate route and submit them to the Alberta Utilities Commission. The commission will then assess the route, its cost and viability relative to wind farm interests and decide whether to approve it.

If approved, the project is expected to be in service in 2015 at an estimated cost of $300 to $450 million.

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